The biochemical, morphological and virulence profiles of 44 Bacillus anthracis isolates, obtained from various localities and carcass remains of wild animals in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, were examined. The morphological characteristics tested for included: the formation of capsules on bicarbonate agar, the motility of the vegetative organism, the presence of haemolysis on blood tryptose agar, the sensitivity of the vegetative organism to bacteriophage, the production of lecithinase on egg
yolk agar, the liquefaction (hydrolysis) of gelatine and the capability of each isolate to produce mucoid colonies when grown on bicarbonate agar with horse serum in an atmosphere containing C0₂. The API 50CHB and 20E systems were used to evaluate the biochemical activity of each isolate. The virulence of each isolate was determined by its LD50, using an inbred line of Balb/C mice.
A clear pattern in the biochemical reactions emerged that appeared to be specific for each isolate. On the API 50CHB test strip, only 2 of the 44 isolates gave a 100% positive reaction to all 10 of the biochemical substances to which it was supposed to react, 9 gave positive results to 90%, 19 were positive to 80%, and 14 were positive to 70%. The reactions on the API 20E were completely different from what was expected, with only 1 of the biochemical activities (gelatinase production) showing a positive reaction to all the isolates. The virulence test indicated that 27/44 isolates could be regarded as highly virulent with a LD50 of <1 000 organisms, and the rest of the isolates as virulent with a LD 50 of 1 001 - 10 000 organisms. The other morphological characteristics demonstrated the typical nature of Bacillus anthracis. Three control isolates, one being the non-capsular, avirulent toxigenic Sterne strain were included in this study.
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